By Clive Masarakufa
Agriculture is a lucrative investment area especially in Africa, particularly in Zimbabwe. It is even more exciting when you consider the cutting-edge innovations now characterizing farming approaches. Many new-age agricultural approaches can potentially become the next big thing in Zimbabwe. Here we are going to zone in on microgreens farming within the Zimbabwean context. The ability to farm in small spaces, significantly or completely even doing away with the need to have land is remarkable. Microgreens offer you that convenience plus they have extremely short turnaround periods. Let us explore more.
First Off – What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are young vegetables typically 2.5 to 7.5 centimeters in height. As soon as their cotyledon leaves fully develop, they are ready to be harvested. In essence, you could say they are tiny seedlings of edible plants – usually midway between sprouts and baby greens. Some common examples are spinach, celery, broccoli, basil, lettuce, cabbage, peas, coriander, and so many more.
Why They Matter So Much
Microgreens wield all-around benefits starting from the farmer to the consumer.
To the Customer
For the consumer, the benefits are wrapped up in 3 words – superior nutritional value. Not only that; the nutrients are concentrated (they are nutrient-dense; way more than your usual greens). Microgreens are laden with what are called phytonutrients. These are natural compounds that are exceptionally beneficial to human health. Microgreens are also rich in antioxidants.
Not only do microgreens have superior nutritional value; they also rank high in taste, aromatic flavor, and visual appeal. You can eat them raw, or as smoothies in the form of juices or blends. They are particularly central to garnishing and salads in the preparation of dishes. It comes as no surprise how chefs are big on including microgreens in their dishes.
Microgreens are harvested shortly after the formation and development of the cotyledon leaves. Why is this key? Well, it simply shows you how quickly microgreens reach maturity. The average germination and maturation spans are almost unbelievable. We are looking around at most 3 days to germination and anything between 1 and 2 weeks to be harvested. Not to mention the extremely high yield to space ratio. This means sales can be realized in the short term and several times over which is a great scenario for any business.
Essentially anyone with a backyard can venture into microgreens farming. Minimal initial and production costs are an alluring characteristic here. You need space that has considerable exposure to natural light (does not necessarily have to be direct light). Then you will need trays or any appropriate shallow containers. You will also need to get the growing medium. Of course, water will be needed but not an awful lot. You must stick to organic seeds that are certified; if not, stick to untreated seeds. Most seeds are treated with some chemicals and we do not need those for microgreens farming.
The obvious strategic niche is restaurants, especially high-end ones. Thus, networking with professional chefs is a witty move. Microgreens are a premium delicacy and can fetch fat prices on the market. Roughly 450 grams of microgreens can go for a cool US$50. It is quite possible to bag on average US$5000 every month. A modest garage space dedicated to microgreens farming can make this happen. Something like a 10 square meter space stacking the microgreens on shelves. The market is largely untapped; most people are yet to discover what they have been missing on. Entering the market now will be largely characterized by low or zero competition.
Interested in microgreens farming? Then kindly get in touch with Trevor Gwaze on +263 775 332 190. He provides consultancy services in microgreens farming from training to support and management.